The Government of Rwanda through the Rwanda Water Resources Board in collaboration with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) are implementing the Embedding Integrated Water Resources Management project which is restoring the landscape and promoting scaleable sustainable resource management through participatory community-based (village and farmer level) approaches in the Sebeya catchment.
By Habimana Jean Claude
The Sebeya River originates in the mountains of Rutsiro District along the Congo Nile Divide, in Western Rwanda. The river flows for over 110 kilometers with a catchment area of 286 square kilometers spanning the districts of Rutsiro, Ngororero, Nyabihu and Rubavu.
For the past twenty years, hundreds of people in Rubavu District, Western Province have been displaced and communities massively overwhelmed by Sebeya River floods, a result of poor agriculture practices, deforestation and unsustainable mining practices upstream to name a few.
The project aims to restore landscape in the upper Sebeya River, through afforestation and the promotion of agroforestry, climate smart agriculture as part of an effort to improve livelihoods and better protect Rwanda’s natural resources.
“The planned activities under this project are meant to sustainably resolve problems that affect residents. There are various interventions activities such as creating dams, digging trenches, afforestation, among others. This project aims to transform citizens’ lives as it is a solution to improve sustainable development. We will provide guidance and technical assistance where necessary,” notes Prime Ngabonziza, Director General of Rwanda Water Resources Board.
Besides, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) provides technical assistance in Rubavu District to implement radical terraces, implementing small gullies rehabilitation, as well as planting agroforestry species in farm lands.
Fortitudes to protect the banks of the river from erosion by growing new agro-trees, and avoiding cattle graze near the banks have left river restored again.
RAYNOR Glenn, Programme Team Leader at Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR), ESARO commented that the Embassy of the Netherlands, through the Sebeya EWMR Project, is making important investments in the sustainable development and improved livelihoods of people in Western Province who depend on the Sebeya river for their livelihoods and drinking water. The community-centered approach employed ensures that the EWRM project is owned by communities in Sebeya with interventions designed and executed in collaboration with the villages themselves. This helps assure the long-term sustainability of landscape restoration and Integrated Water Resource Management interventions in Sebeya and ultimately other catchments across Rwanda.
Hakizimana Frederic, Programmer Office at Embedding Integrated Water Resources Management (EIWRM) at IUCN explains that participatory village and micro-catchment-based approaches to planning and action is at the heart of the project to ensure real community ownership and project sustainability.
“Village Land Use Action Plans (VLUAPs) developed by local communities in all districts where the Project is operating, are now being implemented using a community-centered approach through an MoU signed between the Rwanda Water Board (RWB) and Districts since the beginning of March 2020,“ says Hakizimana.
“We have started by radical terraces in 5 sites in Rubavu District which are Yungwe, Nyanshundura and Bambiro in Kanama Sector and Murambi and Byiniro in Nyundo sector, which we are on protecting radical terraces slope sides by planting grass, shrubs and agroforestry trees, maintaining water ways and construction of check dams” he further explains.
Beneficiaries speak out
Bizimana Boniface, who resides in Kanama Sector, Rubavu district testifies that in 2015 he had two houses completely washed away by Sebeya River where floods also took away many properties including shops at the Mahoko Modern Market.
“For many years, Sebeya River has damaged schools, health centers, churches, farms, shops and other many others. The river has devastated my family’s farms, taking away our crops such maize, beans and potatoes but also we have faced challenges of losing fertile lands which taken away by this river”, he explains.
Due to over-cultivation, poor farming practices without mechanization or environmental protection, most of the hills in the upper Sebeya Catchment have been completely deforested. In addition to mining in Rubavu and Rutsiro districts that has caused landslides tea plantations have also removed trees from the landscape.
The residents of Nyundo and Rugerero sectors express their appreciation to government efforts to protect the Sebeya Catchment by embracing terraces, agroforestry and other smart ways of preserving the river through agricultural techniques friendly with environment.
The Sebeya River remains very important to Western Rwanda, where smallholder farmers use this river for irrigation, a source of drinking water for many households, and hydro-electric power at the Gihira Power Plant in Rubavu District.